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Dear fellow citizens
3 December 2011 is observed in Switzerland and throughout the world as the Day of Persons with Disabilities. This day of action underlines the rights of disabled persons to participate equally in society.
In Switzerland this right is enshrined in the federal constitution and specifically in the national act on equality for persons with disabilities. In the seven years since it came into force numerous improvements have been made. Nevertheless it is still necessary to reduce the disadvantages to which persons with disabilities are subject. It is essential that persons with disabilities and the contribution that they make to society should be recognised. There are about 1 million people with disabilities living in Switzerland and 650 million throughout the world. Their situation concerns us.
The motto of this year's International Day of Persons with Disabilities is: Work - a Human Right. We know how important professional activity is in relation to social integration. To live up to the demands of our Constitution, we must measure our strength against the well-being of the weakest members of our community. Switzerland must provide the necessary funds to ensure that people with disabilities can lead autonomous lives.
"Work - a Human Right": the United Nations Convention on Persons with Disabilities envisages the non-discriminatory access to the employment market. The convention calls for full, effective and equal participation in social life. At the international level this text is decisive for the recognition of persons with a disability and for the enforcement of their rights. The aim of the convention is to ban the discrimination of persons with disabilities in all areas of life and to guarantee them the full and equal enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural human rights. The convention is the first universal legal instrument that translates existing human rights to the life situation of disabled persons and views disability as part of the diversity of human life. In doing so, it overcomes the dominant understanding of disability as a deficit that still prevails in many countries and in many minds.
There is still a great deal to do to establish a new perception of disability. The UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities has already been ratified by 107 states. The goals of this instrument conform to the goals of Swiss legislation in the area of equal treatment for persons with disabilities.
In the spring of 2011, the Federal Council held consultations about signing the convention. The vast majority of those involved in the consultations welcomed the Federal Council's intention to ratify the Convention, even though the appraisals and expectations that they had of ratification differed according to the views of those consulted. In the light of these consultations, the Federal Council will decide on the measures to be taken to ratify the convention as soon as possible.
Many of us have the opportunity to live without disabilities, though this condition is always a fragile one. The ratification of the UN Convention is a good opportunity to reflect that the concerns of persons with disabilities deserve the full attention of the entire society. Equality must not only be enshrined in the law. It must be followed by action. By ratifying the convention, Switzerland would be sending out a strong political signal to all people whose lives are complicated by a disability. We acknowledge their tireless struggle for dignity and recognition by giving them a helping hand.